Illinois now offers marriage to same-sex couples
Gay marriage has been legal in Illinois since June 1, 2014.
On June 1, 2014, Illinois became the 16th U.S. state in which same-sex couples can legally marry. While some states were ordered by courts to recognize same-sex marriage as legal, in Illinois it was accomplished through the legislative process.
The Illinois same-sex marriage bill
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Marriage Fairness Act passed both houses of the state legislature in November 2013 after a long legislative battle. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, a long-time proponent of marriage equality.
The governor issued a press release about the matter, as did President Barack Obama, in which the president congratulated his former colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly for their actions.
The law mandates that any state law affecting marriage must apply with equal force to same-sex couples and different-sex couples alike, as well as to their children.
This means that a same-sex marriage will be dissolved through the same divorce laws and procedures that apply to different-sex marriages, including those controlling alimony, child support and custody, property division and more.
Illinois civil unions
When the law was enacted, civil unions were already legal in the state for both same- and opposite-sex couples. The Illinois civil union law by its terms makes civil unions equivalent to marriages in “obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits.”
Although some other states have handled this situation differently, the Illinois law does not automatically convert civil unions to marriages. Civil unions remain a legal option for all couples, but the new law provides a voluntary mechanism for converting pre-existing civil unions to marriages.
Recognition of out-of-state same-sex unions
According to state law, the state of Illinois must recognize as legal same-sex marriages (except common law marriages) and civil unions from other jurisdictions, as well as “substantially similar legal relationship[s],” which presumably means certain domestic partnerships and similar arrangements allowed elsewhere.
Legal counsel important
An Illinois same-sex couple may have good reason to seek legal counsel from an experienced family lawyer who is familiar with provisions of the new law and legal matters facing same-sex couples. For example, legal problems can arise should they travel to states that do not recognize the Illinois marriage such as issues connected with parenthood, property ownership, medical visitation and decision making, and more.
Similarly, an Illinois resident contemplating divorce from a same-sex marriage should speak with a knowledgeable Illinois divorce attorney for help navigating the same system that has applied to different-sex marriages all along.